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Scientific illustration

Scientific illustrations represent the technological and scientific findings of the extensive natural world : their goal is to accurately document subjects and features of medical science, plants, animals and archeology in a way that can be easily understood. They serve to deepen and clarify our knowledge, as they depict complex systems and topics in a more accessible and aesthetic pleasant way and can reflect and even increase the quality of the published work.


Drawings can focus on the essence of the subject by eliminating extraneous – and often distracting – details inevitably present in for example photographs. In a photograph of, for instance, a surgical procedure important elements can be obscured by blood and bright glosses or false (colour)reflections can mislead one. Furthermore, there are always areas that are out of focus, so certain elements are unclear. Unwanted artifacts, abnormalities, damages or omissions can be corrected with respect for the natural truth. Moreover, an illustration is not constrained to a snapshot in time, but may be a compilation of several moments combined in one picture. Likewise, it is not bound to an exact portrait of one individual specimen, but may represent several elements from various specimens to give a universal image of the subject. The ability to easily emphasize and isolate important details make illustrations invaluable, explaining their continuing success in scientific communication.

Types of illustration:
Black and white (line) drawings

(Photo)realistic or schematic line drawings in pen and ink. Mostly chosen for budgetary reasons or limitations in the printing process, however for some subjects it is simply the best choice. Ideal for botanical and archeological subjects, but also good for depicting surgical procedures. Moreover, if there is the possibility of using colour, the drawing can be supplemented with colour to emphasize certain parts and details.

Tonal drawings

Gray shading can be used to indicate plasticity and depth in an illustration while maintaining structural integrity. It is a powerful and effective technique when the character and appearance of the subject are important.

Vector illustrations and 'infographics'

These digital illustrations are more schematic and present information in a very clear, concrete and direct way. They are not necessarily simple in style as there is always the possibility to add a certain degree of realism. Infographics provide a kind of visual imagery that makes complex concepts and actions clear at a glance. Also recommended for such topics as topographical and geographical maps.

Traditional color illustrations

An illustration made following fine art principles resulting in a realistic representation owing to the use of fine colour. Coloured pencils and/or watercolour paints are used to create high quality, aesthetic illustrations while conventional colour codes are respected.